EXPERT LECTURE: ‘We should not restrict our intellectual resources to one tradition’ – Prof Metz on where ubuntu meets philosophy

Posted on October 22, 2021

Where does the concept of ubuntu meet philosophy? This is the broader question that Professor Thaddeus Metz aimed to answer during the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Expert Lecture Series, in which various scholars are invited to share ideas from their field of expertise.

Prof Metz, a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at UP, was one of 27 scholars from the University who delivered lecturers.

Titled ‘Ubuntu’s Implications for Philosophical Ethics’, Prof Metz began his lecture by outlining how ubuntu as a concept could be categorised and how various schools of academic thought regard it. “Ubuntu literally means ‘humanness’ in the Nguni languages of Southern Africa, and is often used to summarise the moral core of how we ought to live and treat one another,” he said.

Prof Metz then explained that the aim of his interpretation of ubuntu is not to represent thoughts previously shared by other scholars, but to use the idea to draw interesting bits from it and share thoughts on how it can be used differently.

“In the interpretation of ubuntu or the African ethical tradition, my goal is not to represent the way ubuntu has been understood by African philosophers or African peoples. It is not to recount in an accurate way what others have thought, but to draw selectively on appealing facets of African thought about morality to create a moral theory.”

He also reflected on the idea that Western theorists have not drawn much on non-Western theories. “The resources that Western philosophers have drawn on have been limited,” Prof Metz said. “It is a fact that moral theorists have not engaged sufficiently with non-Western cultures, specifically African cultures. On the face of it, that’s foolish; that’s a bad idea. We have reason to think that any long-standing culture or intellectual tradition has some insight on the human condition. We ought not to restrict our intellectual resources to one tradition such as the Western [tradition], and rather open things up.”

Prof Metz also used the opportunity to incorporate some of his research interests, which include answering the question ‘how might we draw on indigenous African thought to construct a defensible moral theory?’

To watch the full lecture, go to:

- Author Masego Panyane
Published by Mecayla Maseka

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